Slightly more than a year ago Belarus President Aleksandr Lukashenko went on a working trip to Brest Oblast. In Luninets District the head of state visited military installations where he was informed about the organization of air defense operations. In the same location on 21 January 2022 Aleksandr Lukashenko held a government conference to discuss the enhancement of the country's military security. The conference became a new reference point for the entire army and for the life of military personnel in Luninets District. A new air defense missile regiment has been set up there now.
As they say, it was a blessing in disguise. The military infrastructure that has been carefully preserved since the time of the Soviet Union came in handy in present troubled times. Suffice it to recall that the air base in Luninets was heavily used to serve interests of countries of the entire Warsaw Pact. It was a training airfield for bomber-fighters during the Cold War.
PROTECTION OF SOUTHERN BORDERS
During the trip to Luninets District in early 2022 Aleksandr Lukashenko said: “Today we have gathered here, in this quiet, peaceful nook of our Belarus, to discuss the security of our state. As little as ten years ago no one would even think that we might need to send military units and a whole group of forces to protect our southern border. It hurts us to watch what is happening in Ukraine. Its current political leadership, being under external control, sometimes behaves unpredictably and irrationally. Therefore, we need to get ready for this unpredictability and irrationality and, God forbid, combat operations.”
“Belarus and Ukraine have almost 1,500km of the common border, which is pretty long. Whatever it may cost us, we should not just see what is happening at this border, we should take every effort to protect it,” the Belarusian leader stressed.
According to Aleksandr Lukashenko, the soul of the Ukrainian nation is being torn apart. First of all, this pertains to Slavic legacy, common roots, language, cultural and ethnic code that binds peoples. “Attempts are being made to deprive Ukrainians of their soul,” he said. “Who would have thought that a few decades after the end of the Great Patriotic War, youngsters with a swastika would march along the central streets of Kiev and other cities. This is unacceptable for us, because we will never forget the things that happened in our territory. After all, we remember Khatyn, we remember what happened there and who committed these atrocities. This is also one of the reasons why today we are forced to respond here, in the south of our country to the evolving situation,” the head of state said.
A nationwide campaign to recall events in Khatyn has been organized in Belarus this year on the occasion of the 80th anniversary of the tragedy. But words and consequent decisions of the head of state with regard to the southern border became truly prophetic. The situation at the southern border was far from ideal taking into account the Ukrainian government's policy of severing normal relations with Belarus since 2020. But once Russia's special military operation in Ukraine began, the decision to reinforce the southern border became not simply timely but vital. And in view of past incidents air defense in this area plays a most important role.
If you want peace, get ready for war. Aleksandr Lukashenko has repeatedly said it and has demanded to do everything to prevent a potential enemy from catching Belarus off guard. Meanwhile, Belarus does want a war. “We organize our security in order to defend our borders, in order to protect ourselves,” the head of state said.
Belarusian Defense Minister Viktor Khrenin mentioned what was necessary to protect the southern border in a report to the president back in late November 2021. This is why the president's trip to Luninets District a couple of months later was no accident. “Back then we agreed that we would meet here in Luninets one day, as the military believe that this is a very good and convenient location to discuss all the proposals that were put forward back then and were to be finalized later,” Aleksandr Lukashenko said.
He said he wanted a follow-up report on what needed to be done not only in Luninets but in Belarus as a whole with regard to air defenses but, most importantly, what needed to be done at the southern border.
After the government conference hosted by the head of state in January 2022 Defense Minister Viktor Khrenin talked to reporters and mentioned the tense situation and militarization not only in NATO countries but also in Ukraine. The official said: “Our neighbors have increased the intensity of combat training. Certainly, the neighboring country of Ukraine has changed its political vector. Unfortunately, we now hear accusations and threats against us. They now openly state that U.S. military personnel have been permanently deployed and work in Ukraine's Defense Ministry. We see all the time that their air space is used for reconnaissance flights. We see that camps have been set up. At present military security is a very acute problem. We have to, we are supposed to make decisions to defend our country. On how we will defend it now and in the future.”
This is why the development of the air defense system, including in the medium term and in the long term of up to 2040, was discussed during the head of state's trip. The defense minister promised: “This little town [in Luninets District] has a great future. Its infrastructure will be developed, restored, and repaired. Military units are already stationed here. New ones will be deployed, too.”
And here is a concrete result. A new air defense missile regiment has been established in Belarus, the press service of the Belarusian Defense Ministry told BelTA on 23 March. In the course of setting up the new army unit close attention was paid to creating modern military infrastructure and educational and material basis, to organizing comfortable accommodation for the personnel, to social security of the military personnel and their families.
Belarusian Defense Minister Viktor Khrenin visited the new unit in Luninets. He stressed the establishment of the new air defense missile regiment in Luninets had become an adequate answer to the situation around the country's borders. The official explained: “The situation around our country is not getting any calmer. Active militarization of the West is in progress. Military potential near our borders is being built up. Ukraine is getting pumped full of weapons. Ukraine's leadership demonstrates unpredictability in its actions. We are forced to act adequately in the face of these challenges and threats to our country's security. This is why it has been decided to set up a new air defense missile regiment on the basis of an existing army unit in Luninets.”
The new regiment is stationed 50km away from the state border. The best specialists have been redeployed here. They are equipped with modern weapons. A good educational and material infrastructure has been created here. Barracks for drafted military personnel have been set up.
HOMES FOR MILITARY PERSONNEL
The president has repeatedly stated that housing construction for military personnel and large families is a priority. A person, who dedicates everything to serving the Motherland, to protecting its borders and who understands that he may have to sacrifice his life under certain circumstances, should not worry about the rear and about where his family will live. This is a fundamental decision made by Aleksandr Lukashenko not only as a commander-in-chief but as a man, who has gone through a serious military school. The decision was implemented in the course of developing military infrastructure in Luninets.
A house for families of military personnel has been built. Schools and kindergartens are ready to welcome their kids. Family members have been granted job opportunities.
On the whole, social protection of the military personnel and their families was prioritized in the course of setting up the new regiment. “The president has repeatedly stated that the main task of the state is to provide housing to all the public sector employees and military personnel. The construction of the house for military personnel proves these words with deeds. Access to housing will be a stimulus for doing the job with better quality, more effectively, and more professionally. When a man does not worry about his rear, he will do his job better. It is an axiom,” Viktor Khrenin said. The defense minister added that once the new regiment is on combat duty, the combat potential of the Belarusian army will be enhanced and the effectiveness of air defense will be increased.
By the way, in February 2023 the head of state signed decree No.37 on rental housing for the military. It added another way to acquire housing. Now military personnel can get housing for free after serving for a certain number of years. Last year saw 540 apartments built for the military in 12 towns and cities across Belarus. There are plans to build over 3,900 rented apartments in 24 towns and cities across the country in 2023.